Kershaw no longer among best without a no-no
From Carlton to Pedro, many elite, deserving hurlers find no-hit history elusive
Clayton Kershaw has his name among the legends of Major League Baseball now. Guys like Bumpus Jones, Bobo Holloman and the immortal Iron Davis.
I know, I know. Who?
That's the funny thing about one of baseball's signature feats: On just the right day against just the right team, it can happen to anybody. Pitching a no-hitter is not necessarily a confirmation of greatness. Not pitching one is not necessarily a negative mark on an otherwise splendid career.
Because as the below lists prove, there are some darn good pitchers, past and present, who never did what Kershaw did on Wednesday night.
Best past pitchers without a no-hitter
1. Roger Clemens
Hey, Rocket, you might have 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, seven Cy Young Awards and an MVP Award. But you're no Jose Jimenez. Actually, Clemens led the league in hits per nine innings four times in his 24-year career, and he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in the 2000 American League Championship Series (he allowed just one hit in that game, an Al Martin double off Tino Martinez's glove). He just never went the distance without allowing a hit.
2. Steve Carlton
Six one-hitters. Zero no-hitters. Them's the breaks for Carlton, who will have to make do with 329 wins (among lefties, only Warren Spahn had more), 4,136 strikeouts and four Cy Youngs. Bummer.
3. Greg Maddux
This one's not a total shock, because the soon-to-be Hall of Famer's game was primarily about controlling the strike zone and inducing weak contact. The occasional single was bound to squeak through. Maddux threw 109 complete games, leading the league in that category three times.
4. Pedro Martinez
Between 1997 and 2003, when hitters were putting up previously unimaginable offensive numbers, Martinez crafted a 2.20 ERA, 1,761 strikeouts and -- this is the pivotal point -- a .198 opponents' batting average. It was one of the most dominant stretches of pitching the sport has seen, but it, like the rest of Pedro's career, was not accompanied by a no-no.
5. (tie) Grover Cleveland Alexander and Lefty Grove
We've got to give some love to the old-timers. Alexander tossed four one-hitters in 1915 alone. On June 5 of that year, he was one out away from a no-hitter when the Cardinals' Arthur Butler swatted a single. Oh well. Old Pete still won 30 games or more three times in his career. And Grove captured nine ERA titles and seven consecutive strikeout titles but never came close to a no-no.
Best current pitchers without a no-hitter
Note: This list can go any number of ways, but to keep it in the context of careers with a significant amount of meat on the bone, we're going to limit the discussion to guys with at least 1,000 innings under their belt.
1. CC Sabathia
Though currently nursing a troublesome right knee injury and clearly not his old self, Sabathia has the highest career WAR (61.7, per FanGraphs) and the most complete games (37) of any active pitcher, to go with a .248 career opponents' average. On Aug. 31, 2008, Sabathia, then with the Brewers, threw a one-hitter at PNC Park in which the lone hit came on a checked-swing knock by Andy LaRoche that rolled fair and was bobbled by CC himself. The Brewers sent an appeal to MLB to try to get the play ruled an error, to no avail.
2. Adam Wainwright
The Cardinals' ace had his first career one-hitter earlier this year -- a May 20 game in which a fourth-inning double from Paul Goldschmidt gave the D-backs their only baserunner -- but that's as close as he's come. Among active starters with at least 600 innings pitched, Waino trails just one guy in career ERA: Kershaw.
3. (tie) Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee
It's as if they are carrying on Carlton's legacy as elite Philadelphia left-handers without a no-no. Hamels is 101-77 with a 3.35 ERA in 256 career appearances, while Lee is 143-90 with a 3.50 mark in 325 games (and the 2008 AL Cy Young Award).
5. David Price
In the three-year stretch from 2010-12, Price limited opponents to just 7.5 hits per nine innings. And here in 2014, he's threatening to lead the league in complete games for the second time in as many seasons, with a 12.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio that is off the charts. No no-nos, though.
6. Tim Hudson
Nearing his 39th birthday, Hudson remains one of the most effective pitchers in the sport. He's posted a career ERA of 3.41, and he's thrown 26 complete games. But a sinkerballer who relies on ground-ball contact is not a great candidate for the no-hitter list.